Alimony reform bill filed for 2017 - Florida Politics

Alimony reform bill filed for 2017

Update: State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican, on Friday filed the Senate companion to the House bill, which she says is identical save for  “a few punctuation differences.”


State Rep. Colleen Burton will try again to overhaul the state’s alimony law, filing a bill on Wednesday.

The Lakeland Republican still aims to toughen the standards by which alimony is granted and changed, after last year’s measure was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott.

“I believe it is the right thing to do,” Burton said in a phone interview. “It costs families a lot of money to go through a process that has no starting point. This gives judges a starting point, the same in Miami as in Pensacola, and gives predictability to former spouses who are trying to determine alimony.

“I have nothing personal invested in this,” she added. “This is just worth trying again.”

The latest bill (HB 283), however, does not contain child custody provisions that garnered Scott’s disfavor in 2016.

He disapproved of that legislation because it had the potential to put the “wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time-sharing,” his veto letter said.

Family-law related bills have had trouble getting Scott’s signature even as lawmakers have tried for years to change the way Florida’s courts award alimony.

In 2013, Scott vetoed a previous attempt to modify alimony law because, he said, “it applies retroactively and thus tampers with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce.”

He added that the “retroactive adjustment of alimony could result in unfair, unanticipated results.”

On one side, former spouses who wrote the checks have said permanent alimony in particular, or “forever alimony,” wasn’t fair to them.

Their exes shot back that they shouldn’t be penalized, for example, after staying home to raise the children and then having trouble re-entering the workplace.

But Burton’s 26-page bill, among other things, contains a guideline that says judges should consider an ex-spouse’s “services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party” when calculating an award.

A judge can go outside the suggested alimony amount under the bill “only if the court considers all of the factors … and makes specific written findings concerning the relevant factors that justify” the deviation.

A message for Burton seeking comment was left at her Lakeland district office.

But her Senate counterpart last year, Republican Kelli Stargel also of Lakeland, said in a text message she will not file a companion measure.

“I don’t know that I’m willing to take this on again next year,” she told FloridaPolitics.com in April. “Then again, a lot can happen between now and the next legislative session. But we need to discuss the merits of a bill and not get into heated rhetoric.”

The legislation eventually caused “a hollering battle” between about 100 advocates and opponents of the bill outside Scott’s office days before the veto.

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

17 Comments

  1. Florida voters have spoken clearly for years that we want meaning reform. Lifetime Alimony needs to be abolished. Every American should be allowed to retire. Paying past the years married needs reform too.

  2. Senator Passidomo is rumored to be the sponsor in the Senate. She’s a terrific supporter of alimony reform, as is Representative Burton.

    This bill, unfortunately, is very watered down and is of little benefit to existing alimony payers who are sentenced to paying another healthy, educated person for the rest of their lives. There are sufficient loopholes init that will keep alimony payers at the mercy of the courts and predatory Florida divorce lawyers for the rest of their lives.

    Real reform will only occur when we have a new resident in the Executive Mansion. 23 months to go. Support candidates who will fix this disaster once and for all.

  3. Family court needs more than reform or more bills.
    Our current corrupt Family Courts need to be dismantled
    It’s always about the $$$$

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  4. This bill does nothing to reserve the inequity of the simple timing of one’s divorce. Having divorced in 2007 after 16 years of marriage, and having had to accept permanent alimony given that at that time judges were forcing permanent alimony on marriages of 10 years or more, I now have to pay alimony 23 years until I retire. Had I divorced in 2011 or after, I would have paid alimony for 16 years max, and now, under this law, had I divorced after 10/1/18, I would have paid between 4 and 12 years. Sure, this is a big improvement for couples divorcing now, but it does not address the inequity of my situation vis a vis someone divorcing now under the exact circumstances. Kudos to Rep Burton who has to deal with a Gov Scott who is in the hands of Divorce Lawyers. The only fair solution is to provide for retroactivity in this law so long as no obligor has accepted to pay higher alimony in order to get a higher % of the division of assets at dissolution (so far, I have never heard of this happening).

  5. What’s the point in only changing the law for those who have yet to even need the law? The only ones that it would currently affect are the ones already paying. How is it fair not to have the ability to at least consider each person’s specific situation and adjust accordingly?

  6. Short term alimony makes sense the person is able to go to school and get a jump start on a new life. Lifetime alimony is only tying the people that wanted to separate together not allowing either person to move forward.

  7. This is a half measure. Alimony should be of brief and limited duration as a springboard to independence. No two unrelated persons should remain financially bound for life… even children (who should be the State’s primary focus) are financially emmancipated at 18 years old.

    Alimony essentially awards the most contentious spouse with a risk free, too often life long stream of income for which they neither labor (not performing spousal duties or providing care) nor assume risk, while the obligor assumes all risk, must continue to provide that fixed stream regardlesz of health ir the vicissitudes of markets or life.

    All parties are best served by a defined and permanent severance of all ties. In most cases, most if not all revenue required for rehabilitation can be awarded through asset division, with brief and finite alimony awards only where one spouse was significantly disadvantaged due to thd marriage.

    1. Very well said
      In fact if children are involved and funds are needed for college, home, gifts and a large chuck of your income is garnished with this insane policy, your children suffer.
      I am paying child support for a child I never see with no penalty to the offender
      2015 February 23 my testimony to the task force.
      https://youtu.be/dDE-0xheZ3c

  8. Transitional support of the ex spouse is a good thing and the monies would help ease a non working spouse into the workforce via job training and education. Lifetime alimony is a whole other story. Lifetime alimony ( a personal welfare program) is really a bad thing because it encourages lifelong and complete dependence on an ex spouse. The giver now has a debt she or he can never repay. The taker never remarried, works or becomes independent.
    For those who believe alimony payers are only men, please be aware that there are more and more female payers each day, and one day, women will achieve “equality” in this arena as well

  9. First I would like to offer a correction on the last paragraph of the article.it was not a ‘hollering Battle’s between the two sides. Our side was legitimate, in that we had appointments with the governor’s aides, we had alerted the media to our presence. We were there to simply alert the media that this law was inequitable to some while extremely generous to others.

    The other side on the other side was chanting, screaming, harassing, threatening our side and at one point a disabled woman from our group was hurt. She had to be hospitalized upon her return home. I myself was shoved had my feet stepped on, had people in my face for bringing my child to this event. The problem with that was they thought she was much younger than she is.

    There was also a man on their side who not once or twice, but three times insisted on giving his VERY young child piggy back rides which resulted in the child’s head being slammed into a chandelier.

    On top of this, many who were outspoken last year endured threats, online cyberstalking and harassment at a level never known before, including all of this towards minor children. My own teenager dealt with private messages from these bullies. Between that and constant attempts to shut down her Facebook account (which was completely legal as she was 15), all of this is lost.

    Now onto the extremely ironic point to all of this. A task force has been requested for over three years and a request has been made to assist with other failures in the law, such as enforcement. These laws are woefully inadequate and if you check out the Facebook accounts and the individual support pages set up by anonymous alimony payors, you can see their biggest concern is to harass and silence those against this law, as well as to seek ways to avoid the CONTRACTS that were agreed upon in their divorces. They suggest taking actions like deception of the courts, moving out of state or out of the country to avoid paying, while continuing employment which generates income in the mid to high six figures.

    Yet three years ago this could have been avoided with the creation of a task force where all sides had equal representation, not just those with the money.

    I would ask that the information be corrected as stated above, lest Florida Politics be added to the list of news not delivering true and correct news.

    And in leaving this comment, those who are pushing for this law will come out on the attack. One thing they do not understand, I come from a large family who has never shut up, nor gone away quietly in the night and I do not intend to do so now. Look at my request to the Orange County Legislative Delegation this year and in years past. No amount of bullying and harassment by them will force ME into silence. A task force should be created and I truly hope those representatives and senators who remained at the delegation meeting will listen now, create that task force, and create laws fair to all, keeping in mind that the majority of the payors agreed to the CONTRACTS intgeir divorces and to change those CONTRACTS through an illegal law that would violate long established CONTRACT LAW is and would be unconstitutional.

  10. As an permanent alimony payer, I did NOT enter into an agreed contract. I fought it, tooth and nail. The judge didn’t care. he was awarded permanent alimony and I became a slave for life. She was not a stay at home mom. She gave up nothing to have and help raise our children. She worked. Her income was only $20K less than mine but the judge equalized all the income….for life. Now I am in hardship, my health is failing and she doesn’t have a care in the world. Perm alimony is WRONG. In my case she shouldn’t have even gotten durational. She can and should be supporting herself. BTW…that lifetime JUDGEMENT (not an agreed contract) was awarded when she was 43 years old. By the time I am retirement age (which I cna actually do) I will have paid her longer than we were married. Nice gig for her.

  11. While I commend those dedicated to and working to reform Florida’s alimony laws, those invested in the system and who reap it’s rewards will never allow those laws to reflect the rights protected in other courts of law. The rights of the hardened criminal exceed the rights afforded those who seek to end their marriages. Ending a bad marriage just as starting a bad marriage means relinquishing your citizenship and it’s protections to the state family court system.
    Alimony reform is picking at the edges of a scab. The underlying illness i.e. family law is incurable.

  12. Alimony does not need to be “reformed”. It needs to be abolished outright. The concept of alimony derives from the era when women were seen as men’s property, and could not work outside the house or be independent in any way. A woman lived at home until her father gave her to her husband. Now that women can work and support themselves, there is no reason for men to support them after the marriage ends.

    Perhaps if the woman has been unemployed and lacks job skills, she could receive a one-time payment for vocational training to help transition back into the workforce. But all this nonsense about women being entitled to maintain the standard of living that they became accustomed to during the marriage needs to stop. If the marriage ends, its benefits end as well.

  13. WoW…in 1970, I represented our high school at Florida Boy’s State in Tallahassee. Part of our learning was to form political parties and pass legislation…as a 17 year old, I actually introduced a bill and it was passed and forwarded to Gov. Claude Kirk (who did nothing) to require fairness to the alimony process…my Dad had paid for years and years while my Mom did nothing…fast forward 39 years and I found myself in the same situation…PASS IT FLORIDA and get the spark started for the rest of the country!

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